Nevada shouldn't foot the bill for education standards

Would you pay an additional $90,000 on a contract that was supposed to run $140,000 if the contractor has already been paid $325,000?

That's the amount that the Council for Basic Education is back-billing the state. And that $325,000 does not include the cost for substitutes the local school districts had to pay.

The problem facing the Legislative Counsel Bureau is whether to pay the bill. Some members of the Council to Establish Academic Standards are recommending that LCB pay it, others are not so sure.

The people who are recommending CBE be paid the additional $90,000, Elaine Wynn, Scott Craigie and Debbie Smith, give CBE very high marks for their work. Others find that very hard to believe.

I believe that before any additional funds are paid to this Washington-based company that the citizens and teachers working on the new state academic standards writing teams be asked to evaluate CBE.

My experience with CBE working on the math standards tells me their work leaves a little to be desired. Let me be more precise. The Council to Establish Academic Standards gave CBE and the writing teams the direction to develop K-12 standards. In fact, the direction was to write the exit standards first, then work back to kindergarten.

The very first day with CBE at the helm, we were "in-serviced" to death. The second day got worse. Rather than writing exit standards first, the CBE facilitator decided to work from kindergarten to 12th grade. To be quite frank, two days were pretty well wasted. I'm not sure of the costs to the school districts, but that's a tidy sum that is not shown as a cost to develop these standards.

To make a long story short, after putzing around, in March a letter was sent to the people on the math writing team with the new state math standards attached, indicating these were going to be made public. That letter was dated March 23.

I received the letter March 28. The letter indicated that if we wanted to make any comments or suggestions to get back to CBE by April 1. This document was embarrassing and my name was on it. I called some southern Nevada members of the math writing team with my concerns. The next day, four of us met in my office to rewrite these standards and we faxed them back to CBE in Washington as our comments and suggestions.

At the next meeting of the Council to Establish Academic Standards in Carson City, I was informed northern members of the math writing team were very upset with me because southern members rewrote the standards. That was the first time I realized that CBE was substituting the document we submitted as our comments and suggestions for their own state work.

To be frank, I never expected in my wildest dreams that CBE would completely substitute our work for the work they were involved in. Add to that, all we did in the south was to rewrite the state standards to be aligned with a local school district's curriculum documents. Makes you wonder why we went through all this in the first place. Since northern members were upset, I suggested we keep the original document.

In the midst of this controversy, CBE recommended that the Council to Establish Academic Standards accept the work we did in the south rather than the state document they facilitated. The council voted and accepted the southern document as the state standards in mathematics.

Northern members of the writing team were outraged. If this happened to me, I would have been a little more than outraged.

Now, would you pay this company $325,000? I don't think so. If they tried to back-bill you another $90,000, would you pay for it or laugh?

But the story continues. Because members from the north were understandably upset, the standards council allowed them to rearrange, change and add to those standards "after" they voted to accept the southern document.

I don't believe the state's new version of the academic standards in math are appropriate for all students, nor are they reasonably attainable. And even though my name is on the document, I don't consider it my work because of all the changes that were made to it after it had been approved.

Material is out of order by grade level, the definitions have never been corrected and many are wrong, sets were never included and advanced material was included that is clearly not appropriate for all students to graduate from high school.

The saga continued when we were asked to write the performance standards. If writing the standards document was frustrating, writing the performance standards was a joke. I don't believe anyone in the room understood what was going on - including myself. I testified to the standards council that we were writing performance standards for the state and had no clue what was going on. I believe I was told "it would all work out."

Because of concern with these new standards, the Nevada Legislature passed SB 466 which directs the council to revisit, revise and prioritize these newly adopted standards. In other words, they have to be redone.

So my advice to the Legislative Counsel Bureau: Don't pay the bill. In fact, it's time to have the members of the writing teams evaluate the work of the Council for Basic Education. That might open the eyes of Craigie, Smith and Wynn.

Bill Hanlon, a Las Vegas educator, is a member of the Nevada Board of Education. His views do not necessarily reflect those of other members. His e-mail address is


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